Sunday, February 14, 2016
California Week #6: Warning! Life carries risks!
The notion that people in California are crazy, or at least crazier than the rest of the nation, anyway, is probably an outdated one, similar to thinking that New York is dangerous, when the fact is that Chicago has triple the homicide rate.
But old notions linger. I was excited, driving out to Joshua Tree National Park, to pass Mount Shasta, the focus of Chicago's I AM Temple (what, you've never seen the UFO cult's building downtown? 176 West Washington Street; pop on by) which, not to impoverish their beliefs by summary, are convinced there is some kind of secret alien base located within.
And you can't go to a place of public accommodation without being hectored by California's safety nazis, in the forms of signs desperately trying to wave you off whatever activity you might be so reckless to consider, whether it is the consumption of seafood in a restaurant, or of alcoholic beverages in the bar, or sit in an area where people might light up a cigarette.
Those, I'm used to. But the sign above, at the Azure Hotel in Ontario, California, seemed a new twist.
Without dwelling on its content, the sign illustrates the innumeracy of warning. Could a person with "active diarrhea" perhaps be prevented from leaping into the pool, to the misfortune of whoever cleans it? Sure, it's possible. Would, for every one of those persons, there be a thousand other healthy individuals who would have their pool-visiting experience diminished, if not ruined entirely? Bet on it.
Not to mention the diminishment of the entire idea of warnings. A warning should by definition be something rare, pointing out a real, immediate danger — steep cliffs, electrified rails — not conjure up notional harm, such as bursts of incontinence afflicting swimmers mid-pool.
I believe government has a role in addressing the woes of society; that said, it is not responsible for eliminating them all, and shouldn't try. A warning on a cigarette pack is a good thing, to remind die-hard addicts of the price they may pay. And the First Lady trying to encourage kids to get moving and be less fat was a worthwhile use of her time. But we don't want a government compelling the posting of nauseating placards to warn off those with the runs. It opens the door for all sorts of esoteric concerns, "Leprous children should not enter the ball pit." Life is full of risks, and living will kill us all, someday, every one of us. Is it asking too much that we are allowed to enjoy ourselves, a little, before that sad day arrives?